I see photos of people who with bare hands claw through a mixture of sand and debris in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, and I think of precious personal items retrieved yesterday.
Sixteen months after the death of his wife, my daughter Laura, Dan Morefield, my son-in-law, is still combing through the detritus of her life. Like her mother, Laura kept everything, including the things I gave her because I no longer had room for them when I downsized. Her house had copious storage spaces, and she put all I gave her -- my overflowing file folders and photo albums -- into big plastic tubs and put them up on shelves in the garage.
In one of the straggler file folders Dan gave me yesterday, I found a poem Laura must have written when she was around 16. I believe I first kept it, and then she inherited it, along with other precious things I’d forgotten just as surely as if they were buried in the sand.
The box I brought home contains my mother’s high school yearbook, June 1913, John Marshall High School, Chicago. Each time I saw this yearbook in the past, and even now, I turned the pages eagerly to find mother’s graduation photo under Thelma Good. Time and again I’m surprised to find that someone has torn her photo from the yearbook. All that remains are the accompanying words: “Her face is fair, her heart is true.” I know that. I always knew that.
I also found a snapshot of Laura’s father, Samuel Costales, who died when she was 2. He promised me a girl and was so delighted with our infant that he carried her around in his arms, singing and dancing with her. She never knew his warmth and how much he loved her. I am comforted that if what I believe is true she knows now.
A Poem for Mother
By Laura Jeanne Costales
Sometimes I feel as if
I’m all “grown up”
And I think that I’m free to do what I want
Without needing help.
But then something will happen
And I’ll hurt so bad inside
It’s like falling into a pit
And landing very hard on the bottom.
I’ll stay in my room,
Lost and hurt
And then there will be
A knock on the door.
Her head will pop around the corner
And her eyes will sadden.
She’ll come and put her arms around me
And all of a sudden,
I’m not all “grown up”
I’m just her little girl again.
She asks what is wrong
I’ll tell her and cry.
She comforts me when I need it most
My gift to her this mother’s day
All the love I can give her
For all the times
Note to Laura
Oh, my girl, I hope I never disappointed you
when you needed my love.
I’d give anything to knock on your door,
pop my head around the corner,
and take you into my arms right now.
Thanks for saving all my stuff.
November 2, Old Town
Dia de los Muertos
Celebrate Small Victories is engraved on Laura's silver bracelet, the talisman that was supposed to restore her health. I read the inscription at my table in Old Town. Next to me is a lamp of brass, with a lavender shade encircled with pink teardrops, each tipped with red.
It is the Mexican Dia de los Muertos. Trollops and matrons alike dress as if it were still Hallowe'en, odd little knots and combs atop their heads, flip-flops or impossibly steep platforms upon their feet.
The Catholic church is right across the street from my window. People carry roses and candles in their hands. Earlier, I observed a teen nervously eating her rose outside the tour ticket booth on Twiggs Street.
A mother comes into the coffee shop with two children, identically dressed in skeleton tees, the boy around 3, the girl, 1-1/2 or so with pacifier. She is intent on carrying off the wine display bottle by bottle, while he, all menacing arms, hands and aarghs, wants only to scare the other children as they enter.
Outside, on my way to the theatre, I find myself caught up in the Dia del los Muertos procession, and I am overwhelmed by grief, sit on a bench and shed tears for the communion of saints so recently joined by my longtime friend George, who was certain that Laura awaited him.
Small victories are good. They allow us to put one foot in front of the other as we plod along the road to our own epiphanies.